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Watch Review by aBlogtoWatch: ELEMENT Ceramic Bezel Black

The latest timepiece from the recently revived Formex watch brand is the Formex Element. The Swiss brand boastfully refers to the Element as „the most affordable high-end watch in the world.“ I might not join them in applying such poetic license to the description of their product, but I do agree that for under $1,500 USD, there is a lot of timepiece in the Element collection.

Find the original article on by Ariel Adams, Feb. 19, 2018

Find the original article on by Ariel Adams, Feb. 19, 2018

Formex began life as one of the many mechanical watchmakers inspired by the world of professional motor sports. Unlike most other racing-inspired watch brands, Formex timepieces up the ante a bit by not just dressing their watches for the role, but also including a bit of unique technology. They call it „case suspension,“ and the idea is actually as practical as it is fitting for car-themed timepieces. I’ve had other Formex watches with a case suspension system, but I have to say that it works particularly well in the Element.

The idea is that the inner case and bezel are attached to the outer case/lugs via four little shocks – each with a small spring inside. If your wrist experiences a jolt, extreme vibration, or other form of shock, the suspension system is designed to absorb it. This way you can keep your jack-hammering job and wear the „world’s most affordable high-end watch“ a bit longer until something goes wrong. OK, perhaps the constant vibrational abuse of jack-hammering is a bit too much for any mechanical timepiece, but the logic remains that the Formex Element might just survive where other mechanical watches won’t. Without any particular scenario to consider when I’d wear the watch, the „technical story“ alone is enough to get myself (and likely many of you) just that much more emotionally and intellectually interested in this timepiece. Hey, it’s a very competitive mechanical watch market out there, and smaller brands like Formex typically don’t amount to much without interesting extras like the case suspension system – and similar technical or design stories behind their products. At the end of the day, it is really about consumers being in search of originality in the luxury brands they back.

The Formex Element case is in steel (with brushed and polished surfaces), with either a black ceramic or matching steel bezel. You pay about $200 more for the ceramic bezel, which is probably worth it since it is a big part of the case’s value proposition in my opinion. Size is on the heftier side of things, with a diameter of 46mm wide and a thickness of 14.5mm with 100m of water resistance. The crystal is covered with a flat AR-coated sapphire crystal, and over the movement Formex opted to go with a tinted sapphire crystal, whose tint is perhaps just a bit darker than it needs to be.

Underneath the crystal is a standard-grade Swiss ETA Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph watch. This isn’t perhaps the cheapest watch out there with a 7750, but it certainly is among the more complicated watches in terms of design and construction to offer this really reasonable price point. Formex emphasizes that the case alone has 38 parts. While the outer case is steel, apparently the inner case (movement container as they call is) is in titanium.

Formex uses the full functionality of the 7750, which means that you get to see the full 12 hour chronograph, time, and date/day complication of the durable and dependable 4Hz, 42 hour power reserve mechanical movement. Formex even added a touch that I find particularly impressive, which is the use of custom day and date discs. Rather than going with a stock black or white-colored disc for the calendar information, the discs are in a brushed steel tone, which harmoniously matches the aesthetic of the hands, hour markers, and sub-dial rings.

The black ceramic bezel is also contrast-finished with the upper section being brushed while the beveled side is polished. Ceramic is much more scratch-resistant than steel, which is the primary reason you want it. There is also the added benefit of its style thanks to the black color. Again, if you prefer a more uniform look to the case, a steel bezel is offered as well for the Element.

Let’s talk about the design of the watch overall, and then go into details about the dial. Formex seems to have specifically intended for the Element watches to look familiar (in a modern, macho, sports watch kinda way), with just enough originality so that it didn’t actually look like anything else. The result is a design which I think a lot of newer watch lovers are going to be interested in, but devotees of bigger name watches are likely going to want a bit more originality out of the design. At best, the Formex offers a „baby Hublot“ look, with a lot of the same visual themes, at no more than about 10% of the cost of a Hublot.

Very little from a design perspective of the Element is original. While the watch itself does not pay homage to any one specific timepiece, you can see little bits and pieces borrowed from a range of brands and models. This isn’t really a sin, given that to be truly original is often deleterious to business interests. However, it means that with the Element, Formex is mainly targeting people who are aspirational. These folks really want the much more expensive „X“ model watch, but given the good value and sensibility of the Element, they find it hard to resist. One brand whose watches the Element sort of reminds me of (not so much in specific design, but some of the finishing, and parts) is Ball.

As the Formex brand – which is dedicated to solely selling watches online – grows, they need more „me too“ watches than they need totally original ones. If only because the group who admires original designs are much harder to convert to paying customers, and those looking for a timepiece that fits a theme they are looking for will more readily be a buyer.

The long case of the Element makes it jut a bit off for my relatively small wrist, but the watch is rather comfortable. If your wrists are medium to large in size, then you won’t have an issue wearing the Element. It has a cool look to it overall, with a sort of tonneau-shape and angular pushers with a nice big polished steel crown. I’m not in love with the large hexagon logo, which fits the theme of the brand, but for some reason doesn’t seem to fit the theme of the watch from my perspective.

Looking at the dial, I feel as though I am mostly met with elements I’ve seen before – but nothing feels out of place or of a low quality. Formex did a pretty good job making sure the dial felt spirited, sporty, three dimensional, and legible (even if the hands could be just a bit longer). Also, if you are a fan of brushed finishing, I recommend the Element because the dial (including the face itself) is full of various brushed components. The mostly matte black face serves as a nice frame for the rest of the dial, which I like overall (despite, again, it lacking what feels like enough originality or distinctive personality).

As of writing, Formex does not offer a rubber or sports strap for the Element, which seems like something they should change. Then again, the quick-release spring bars for the lugs encourage you to swap out the straps. The leather strap options are a black or brown alligator print or a more traditional black leather strap with white contrast stitching. It is important to note that more pleasant details exist in the deployant clasp construction.

If the case itself is heavy, then the strap deployant compensates by being very light. The majority of the deployant assembly is produced not from metal, but from a hard carbon fiber composite, with some steel parts. There is also a small fine-adjustment system in the deployant which is handy. I recall when I first saw this particular style of micro-adjustment system in another watch a few years ago. I had almost missed it, and wasn’t even sure exactly how to use it. Seeing this system in the Element, I came prepared with the knowledge of how to use it – which is to press a small pusher that moves the connection point with the hinge up and down in order to give or pull back small increments of wearing size.

In addition to the mostly black-dialed version of the Element (as pictured, the reference 1200.5.8027.311), Formex offers the Element (black ceramic as well as a steel bezel version) with a white dial. I haven’t seen that model in person, but I would worry about overall legibility because of the steel hands and hour markers.

The watch industry is changing in many ways, and part of that is a new price paradigm set forth by brands like Formex and its increasing number of colleagues. These brands are using traditional watch industry suppliers and design minds, but eschewing the bloated distribution system still relied upon by the big brands which probably acted to double watch prices in many instances. While it isn’t true that all brands can benefit from a direct to consumer model, for the brands that it can benefit (such as Formex), retail prices can typically decrease by about 20-50% when they don’t need to have a third-party retailer in the middle.

Formex is thus able to reach watch lovers seeking this type of design theme, with these types of components, and who know that at this price, there isn’t too much out there quite like this. Without the bigger brands making these items appealing, Formex would have a much harder time, but today when the big luxury names are still un-affordable for most watch enthusiast audiences, the „mere“ approximately $1,300–$1,500 price range for the Formex Element easily comes across as a solid, smart deal. Price for the Formex Element watch with the steel bezel is $1,260 USD, and with the black ceramic bezel the price is $1,490 USD (each with shipping included).

Necessary Data
>Brand: Formex
>Model: Element (reference 1200.5.8027.311 as tested)
>Price: $1,490 USD
>Size: 46mm wide, thick
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes, especially in my younger days.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Watch enthusiast looking for a big, modern-looking mechanical chronograph timepiece whose budget maxes out at $1,500.
>Best characteristic of watch: Great value to price ratio. Formex gets a lot of the little details right, and the case suspension system is genuinely cool.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Struggles to find a distinct personality aside from being a really well-priced entrant in a crowded room of other modern, macho sport watches. Not necessarily a good option for those with smaller wrists, and the case itself is rather heavy.


Author: Ariel Adams

Fueled by an unshakable love for horology and a general curiosity for intricate things, Ariel Adams founded aBlogtoWatch in 2007 as a means of sharing his passion. Since then, ABTW has become the highest trafficked blog on luxury timepieces, and Ariel has become a contributor to other online publications such as Forbes, Departures and Tech Crunch, to name just a few. His conversational writing style and inclusive attitude brings a wider appreciation for watches the world over, and that’s just the way he likes it.

Find the original article on by Ariel Adams, Feb. 19, 2018

Go to the FORMEX Swiss Watches Element Ceramic Bezel Black here